We examined the relationship between self-reported mole counts and cutaneous melanoma with respect to anatomic site in 110 case and 231 control female nurses. Counts of moles on the lower leg were better predictors of melanoma risk than were counts of moles on the arm. The relative risk for the highest quintile of lower leg mole counts versus no lower leg moles was 4.2. Mole counts at each site (arm, thigh, and lower leg) were associated with risk of melanoma of the trunk and lower leg, but none were associated with the risk of melanoma of the upper extremity. The absence of direct site-specificity suggests that mole counts primarily indicate systemic melanoma risk, rather than direct risk from the moles themselves. [J Natl Cancer Inst 81:948-952, 1989].